“Hunk alert,” Wendy called out in a pseudo-whisper.

Tara wasn’t sure when the staff had started this ridiculous behavior. Whenever a good-looking guy came in, one of the waitresses would make this announcement. She knew she should stop it, but with a brand-new staff, she was going to allow anything that helped them become a cohesive team.

Besides, the guys had come up with their own balance. Bombshell was the term her evening cook, Wade, had used. The gray-haired cook wasn’t interested in the modern vernacular, much to the younger guys’ displeasure. He reasoned that they needed an education. Still, the term had stuck.

And so the descriptions of customers flew around the kitchen. Tara focused on the biscuits.

“You really should see this guy.” Wendy passed Tara and whispered in her ear, “He’s perfect for you.”

Not only was her staff getting involved in the life of the diner, they’d started to make their feelings known about her life—specifically, her lack of a love life. It didn’t help that her brothers, DJ and Jason, had both gotten married and Wyatt and Emily had eloped in the past few months.

Her sister, Mandy, talked about dresses and bouquets every time she came in with little Lucas for lunch. Love was in the air everywhere—and her staff thought she should join in.

“Not interested,” she said, focusing on the biscuit dough. “Told you that already.”

“This one might make you change your mind.” Wendy’s voice came out all singsongy as she wiggled her eyebrows. “You never know.” She’d filled a tray as she’d talked, then hefted the thing up on her shoulder.

“Just focus and don’t spill that.”

“Yes, boss.”

Wendy disappeared out into the dining room as Lindy, the hostess, came in. “You gotta see this guy,” Lindy said as she carried a stack of dishes to the sink. The girl was a ditz at times, but she knew when to chip in and help.

“You girls need cooling off.” Gabe lifted the water spray and sent a brief blast of water at Lindy, who squealed.

“All right.” Tara needed to stop them now. “Everyone get to work.” Her voice was soft, though, so while they stilled the horseplay, the glances and snickers continued.

Shoving the tray of biscuits into the oven, she stepped back and dusted off her hands. Her mouth watered at the sight of the previous batch she’d baked and, mentally promising her mom, “just one,” she reached out.

Suddenly, hands cupped her elbows, and she found her waitresses on either side of her. “Hey!”

“You’ll thank us later.” Wendy laughed.

The laughing trio had to angle awkwardly through the swinging doors, and the thump of the doors closing barely broke the din of the dining room. Nearly all the tables were full and even the counter had only a few empty stools.

Tara didn’t have to ask. The man at the counter, on the end. Blond, short-cropped hair. Broad, bodybuilder shoulders. And muscles. His arms were huge, stretching the fabric of his black T-shirt tight. She didn’t dare look in the direction of his faded blue jeans.

“See?” Wendy didn’t even bother to try to hide her pointing hand.

Tara stared. “Oh. My,” she whispered, then spun on her heel. She scurried into the kitchen before he could look up and see them all gawking at him.

Robbie looked through the order window. “What’s wrong with you?”

She stared at her cook, the only apparently sane person in her kitchen. There was no way she was telling him anything.

But that man… He was exactly what she’d normally be attracted to. He was the opposite of her brothers, so different from her normal reality.

Which was why she’d turned around. She’d made more than her fair share of bad choices in men. She did not have time for any kind of relationship right now. None whatsoever. Not even a wishful one.

Even if those arms could make any girl feel safe.


MORGAN STARED AT the menu, peering over it as two waitresses dragged a woman dressed in chef garb out of the kitchen. That was an interesting little display.

As soon as they let go of her arms, she turned through the diner doors, like the bird in the cuckoo clock his grandmother used to have.

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